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Soul Doctor

Het was alweer zo'n vier jaar geleden dat ik met Tommy Heart gesproken had, dit naar aanleiding van Soul Doctor's gelijknamige debuut album. Het was toendertijd onvermijdelijk om het interview grotendeels te wijden aan Tommy's vertrek bij zijn vorige band Fair Warning en het hoe en waarom hij gekozen had voor een bestaan bij Soul Doctor. Ook nu kwam de naam Fair Warning nog wel eens te sprake, maar de hoofdmoot van het gesprek was gewijd aan Soul Doctor dit keer. Ondanks het feit dat Tommy nog maar net tien minuten wakker was (en dat om half tien 's avonds!) bleek hij nog steeds de vriendelijke spraakwaterval zoals ik me herinnerde van ons vorige gesprek.

Door: Sjak | Archiveer onder hardrock / aor

Your debut album appeared in 2001, the follow-up in 2002 and now it took you three years to come up with 'For A Fistful Of Dollars'. What have you done in those three years?
We have encountered quite a lot of problems during the last three years. First of all our bass player JD left the band, then our guitarist Chris broke his collar bone, we decided to change our management and we have built our own recording studio. Although it may seem to have taken three years to release the new album, the actual writing and recording process took about nine months.

Why did JD decide to leave the band?
You know that JD came from Bonfire and since they were quite successful everything was easy for him. In a band like Soul Doctor you really have to work hard to get somewhere and he was not used to that. Despite of the fact that I talked for hours with him, I guess the life with Soul Doctor just was too hard for him. Now that we have Jogy in the band, I'm okay with his decision.

Talking about Jogy (Reutenberg), where did you find him?
We already played together in a band called Heartlyne back in the 1986/1987 period. When I joined Fair Warning and Heartlyne was laid to rest, Jogy joined Skew Siskin for a while. Because of the fact that that band had a lot of problems and he was really tired of that, it didn't take very much to get him in Soul Doctor when I approached him.

Why did you decide to change management?
Well, you know people come and go. We had the feeling that we really didn't fit together anymore. They did everything they could, but for Soul Doctor it was just not enough anymore. A manager needs to be as hungry as the band and as such be available for 24 hours 7 days a week. The management that we had just wasn't active enough and didn't have the same drive and motivation as the band had.

You also decided to build your own recording studio. What was the reason for this?
The main reason was that we wanted to get independent. When you have to book a studio, you're always pressed for time and when you have your own studio there is no clock running and you can take more time to experiment and try-out new things if necessary.

The new album is released by Frontiers Records. How did you get teamed up with Frontiers?
We did it the traditional way, we had sent a demo to them and they replied that they wanted to hear some more music from us. So we did send them some more songs, they liked it and were interested in doing a record. Since they're quite a big and established company now, we decided to give it a try and see how things work out.

What does the deal with Frontiers look like?
It's just a one-album deal and if both parties are happy we will probably continue our relationship.

Frontiers is known for its melodic releases while the Soul Doctor style seems to be going more and more into the traditional hard rock direction. Was Frontiers interested in your music or in the name Tommy Heart?
I don't know if my name was important, since Soul Doctor is a totally different band. We don't want to live on my past with Fair Warning, we want to let our music do the work and see where that brings us.
On the promotion leaflet Frontiers still showcases you as the ex-vocalist of Fair Warning. Does this connection to your past bother you or do you just accept that it was a very important part of your career?
It doesn't really bother me, but I was not aware that they did this. I had a very good time in Fair Warning and it brought me to a certain level, but I think that the music of Soul Doctor is strong enough to survive with any link to my past.

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Okay, enough said about your past. Besides changing the bass player, you also incorporated a new drummer. What happened there?
It was more or less the same story as with our bass player. He was pretty busy with all kind of things, his support went down and he couldn't find enough time anymore to devote to the band. That's why we decided to get Mario in. Coincidentally he also was part of Skew Siskin before joining us and when jamming together on songs like 'Eating On Me' and 'Best Way To Fade' it became clear that he was the guy to fill in the free spot.

Before talking about the new record, I would like to know what the first two albums did for you, both from a sales perspective as well as from an artistic perspective?
First of all I must say that I'm not interested in sales figures. I'm a musician and I care about the music, not about the sales. The first two albums did okay for us as a band, it brought us enough attention and as a result we could do some good touring. Now we focus on our new album.

When did you start the actual writing process for this new album and how did this process take place?
The writing process started right after the last show we did with JD and it took about nine months total to finish, with a few hiccups as I mentioned earlier. Process-wise it changed from record to record: for the debut album it was Chris and myself who took care of the songs separately, for the second one more people in the band got involved but for our new album we decided to go back to basics and the song-writing is again done by Chris and me, sometimes separately, sometimes together.

When I listen to the new album I hear a lot of AC/DC-alike riffs and influences (especially on 'Best Way To Fade' and 'Under Your Skin'). Are they such an important influence for you or do you feel that when writing traditional hard rock you're always creating a kind of AC/DC-feel?
They're just a brilliant band and I really, really love their music. Furthermore it has to do with my “talent” as a guitar player. When I write songs I mostly do this on the guitar and because I'm a very limited guitar player I end up with simple riffs, which create the right feeling for Soul Doctor. Listening back to these relatively simple songs we decided that we wanted it just like this and that the songs sounded great.

Are you trying to create some kind of image, since the music, album title and artwork breathe a certain country and western feel?
No, it was certainly not planned. We were in touch with some other record companies who wanted to change our musical direction and we said: “no way, I will give you a fistful of dollars”, which is an expression that showed our feelings about changing our style. Furthermore, being an avid movie fan I watch movies all the time and there is a spaghetti western movie with Clint Eastwood called 'A Fistful Of Dollars'. These two things combined provided us the title for the album and later on the artwork was designed based on this. All these things together probably caused the country and western feel that you mention but it was surely not a planned action.

Okay, let's go to the actual songs. I believe opening track 'Eating On Me' is a song with a message and also the first time that you as a band are doing this. Why did you decide to go for a political song and what's the exact message that you want to bring across?
Well, as a band you're able to reach millions of people, which is a good thing if you want to bring a message across. Lately the world has been flooded by terrorist attacks, wars and I still believe that peace is the best thing on earth. Governments are making empty promises on these subjects for a while already and if we can contribute in spreading the right message, why not give it a shot?

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The following track, the already mentioned 'Best Way To Fade', is in my opinion one of the best tracks on the album. What are your current favourites and why?
Choosing my favourite album tracks is like asking a father about his favourite kids. I just cant make a choice, I love 'em all. It took us quite a while to get the right groove for 'Best Way To Fade'', but I'm very happy with the actual end result.

'Remember' is the ballad of the album, but it's not your typical predictable ballad. Why did you choose for a non-standard type of ballad?
First of all I love to sing ballads and I believe that I'm one of the few singers around who can really sing stuff like this. When you love to sing ballads, it's pretty obvious to incorporate one on your album. Furthermore I believe that a record should contain enough variety to keep the listener's attention until the very last song. Combining straightforward rock and roll songs with a few ballads does the trick.

On several songs a brass section can be heard (like in 'Ten Seconds Of Love'). What's the rationale behind this?
I'm surprised that you heard it, because a lot of people think that they are keyboard parts. To be honest, it was Chris' idea and I was not very much in favour of it at first. I agreed to give it a try and the end result sounded great so we decided to let them in.

If I'm not mistaken, 'The Trigger' is your “middle finger up” song towards the people that didn't believe in the band from the first place. Why did you feel the urge to write such a song?
From the early start of Soul Doctor a lot of people have stated that we would stand a chance surviving with this kind of music in this competitive market. A few years later we're still around and more alive than ever before. I just had to write this song to show them that they were wrong and that Soul Doctor is here to stay.

The album goes out like a candle, since closing track 'Cheap, Down 'n' Dirty' is not the rocker that I would have expected with such a title, but rather an acoustic song about falling in love. Why did you decide to close the album in this fashion?
At first 'Cheap, Down 'n' Dirty' was an ordinary rock song in the style of Free and Bad Company, but we felt that it was not strong enough. So we decided to change it and make an acoustic version from it. Later on Chris decided to leave out the guitar solo and instead we built in a blues harp solo. We felt that the song was much stronger in this way and that it would be a perfect album closer.

The production of the album is pretty impressive. Why did you decide to do this yourself?
We knew exactly what we wanted to sound like, so it was an obvious choice to do it ourselves. One time after a show I got to talk about album production with Ronnie James Dio and he more or less told me to always follow your heart to get the best results and that's exactly what we did.

The album was released on December 5th. What are your expectations of this album and when would you say that the album has become a success for you personally and for the band?
I really don't have any expectations concerning sales numbers. The album will be a success when we are able to play live as much as possible and please as many people as we can. It's all about emotion and playing live is the most important thing for Soul Doctor.

Now that the album is out, what's up next? A few years ago you told me that you actually left Fair Warning because you wanted to tour more, so what can we expect in this area?
There are no concrete plans yet, we have some ideas but it's too early to tell you anything about tours. We don't want to wait another three years before releasing our next album, so we plan to write and record our fourth album within the next few months and then go on tour in 2006.

Since you are performing a lot more then in your Fair Warning days, isn't it about time that we get some of this live energy on a DVD? Any plans in this direction?
Also on this subject we have no real plans yet. It might be a good idea though if our record company supports it. We have recorded several shows, which could be released on a DVD but for now it's not planned yet.

Last question from my side: are you still as much of an Elvis Presley fan as you were four years ago?
Yes, of course. He was the king! He had something special and he really put his heart in the songs. When you look at some of the seventies concerts you can see that he was an outstanding performer with an awesome voice. I mean, it probably isn't very metal to love Elvis music, but I'm strongly in favour to give any type of music a chance.[/b]

Any last words from your side?
First of all, thanks for the interview! I hope that we are able to play in your area soon so that we can meet face to face next time. I would like to thank all the fans that they were patient enough to wait for this album. We will try to go on tour soon so that we can bring the energy live! Rock on!

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